The first step when you take your bike out of the shed is to give it a deep clean. You’ll thank yourself for doing this later when you’re not picking through mud to lubricate your chain or check your wheels.
The simplest way of doing this is with a bucket of soapy water and brush, preferably with fairly stiff bristles. This should be effective at getting off most of the grime, but be careful with some domestic soaps and cleaners as they can damage the frame and components over a long period of time. A proper bike cleaning solution could be the way to go if this is a worry for you.
When you come to cleaning some of the more fiddly parts of the bike, such as the wheels or chain, it might be worth investing in a work-stand. This will make your life a lot easier, especially if you’re cleaning your bike regularly.
Some specific parts to keep in mind:
• Chain. The chain is often one of the dirtiest parts of a bike, especially after heavy usage. Make sure that you’ve thoroughly cleaned the chain and lubricated it to avoid any accidents when out and about.
• Tyres. As with any moving part, make sure that all dirt and grime is thoroughly washed off. Keep your tyres clean prevents build ups from causing punctures or other damage to the wheel.
• Brakes and Gears. Gently wash the breaks and gears before lubricating them. This ensures smoother gear shifting and quicker break response in the future.
Once you’ve finished cleaning your bike, it’s time to check that everything’s functioning properly. Firstly, double-check your tyre for any damage. This could include small tears, anything embedded in them, lack of tread, or a lot of wear in certain areas. You should also check whether or not the tyres are inflated to the right level. Luckily, a tyres recommended pressure is almost always printed on the side of the tyre.
If there is any damage to the tyre, it’s worth replacing it. Even if the tyre hasn’t actually breached or the damage isn’t too bad, you never know when it could go wrong.
Once you’ve made sure there’s no damage, give the entire wheel a spin. It should spin freely, with nothing impeding it. If it slows abruptly, or you hear any noises during the spin, there’s probably something stopping it from spinning properly. This could be a couple of things; the brakes could be misaligned or there could be some damage to the wheel frame.
At this point, it’s also worth checking that the brakes are working properly. Spin the wheel again and push the brakes to check how well they’re performing. It’s also worth trying this regularly before you start riding. This way, it’s easier to notice any changes in performance from ride-to-ride. Replace the brakes if they’re becoming too worn and/or aren’t stopping your bike sharply.
Also, check to the see whether your bike cables are in good condition. If they are rusted or frayed at any points, replace them. Damaged cables could easily affect your brakes, especially if you don’t find any problems with your brakes but they’re still performing poorly. Finally, quickly check that every nut and bolt on your bike is properly tightened. Loose nuts and bolts can easily cause problems, and should be replaced if their threading is becoming bare or worn.
To finish this guide off, there’s a few smaller things you can do to keep your bike in good condition. Mainly, use your bike regularly. If your bike sits at the back of the shed for months on end, problems are far more likely to spring up due to rust or corrosion.
Try and get out and about on your bike at least once a week if you plan on using it heavily at some point in the year. Even if it’s a short ride, it’ll keep the parts moving and expose it some clean air.
Make sure before you head out on your bike this summer that everything’s working and, most importantly, safe! It might take a bit of time out of your Saturday, but you’ll thank yourself when you’re smoothly riding on your pristinely clean bike.